When evaluating potential link donor websites, most SEOs focus heavily on metrics like domain authority, page authority, and number of existing backlinks. However, taking a closer look at a site's organic keyword ranking performance can provide additional insightful perspective. The depth and breadth of domains' rankings for core terms relevant to their industry serves as a strong indicator of their overall visibility and authority in search engines' algorithms.
By pulling ranking data for a sample of 10-20 of the most important keywords related to a potential donor site's focus, we can gauge their capability to drive traffic and clicks from search. If a site consistently ranks on the first page for competitive commercial terms, it suggests much stronger trust and topical relevance than a domain only ranking for a handful of long-tail key phrases with low search volume.
Tools like Prodvigator, SEMRush, and Ahrefs make it easy to input a domain and pull a report of their top keyword rankings. The presence of rankings in the top 3-5 positions for multiple high difficulty keywords indicates a powerful domain with strong credibility in Google's eyes. On the other hand, thin content farms and low-quality sites struggle to rank well for valuable search terms. If a potential donor does not rank in the top 50-100 for any relevant commercial keywords, they are likely not worth pursuing for a link building campaign.
Some important caveats apply when leveraging keyword ranking data. Limitations around site indexing, especially for newer domains, can distort the rankings picture and should be considered. The specific numerical ranking position is also less important than overall visibility and search traffic driven. A site ranking #15 for a competitive commercial term with thousands of searches still demonstrates strong authority, even if not in the top 3.
Keyword rankings should also always be analyzed in combination with other trust flow metrics like quantity/quality of existing backlinks, strong page and domain authority scores, etc. No single ranking factor tells the whole story. However, monitoring the core term visibility of current and potential link sources over time is highly valuable. It provides a real-world test of relevance and authority beyond backlink numbers alone.
Let's walk through a sample analysis of 10 finance blog domains as potential donors:
- Site A - Ranks top 3 for "credit card points", top 5 for "airline mile deals", and has 15 other top 10 rankings for major commercial terms. Shows extremely strong depth and breadth.
- Site B - No rankings whatsoever in the top 30 positions for any relevant commercial finance keywords. Very poor visibility and low authority.
- Site C - Ranks #12 for "mutual funds", #18 for "401k plans", and has 5 top 20 rankings for related long-tail keywords. Decent potential.
- Site D - Ranks between #30-50 for a variety of long-tail niche keywords but lacks visibility for competitive finance terms. Potential exists but may lack high-level authority.
- Site E - A newly established domain with limited indexing. Hard to evaluate through keywords, so focus on other metrics.
Monitoring keyword visibility over time for both existing and potential link donors provides unique insights. We want links from sites that consistently rank well for commercial terms in their field, as this demonstrates true authority beyond basic metrics. Even links from sites ranking in the #10-20 range for competitive keywords can be worthwhile, as it shows strong relevance. Evaluating donor quality through core keyword depth and breadth enhances link building strategy.